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Verizon Fined $1.35 Million By The FCC Over Use Of Supercookies

Verizon Fined $1.35 Million By The FCC Over Use Of Supercookies

As revealed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) via an official statement, it has reached a settlement with Verizon Wireless. For those not in the know, the agency has been looking into the Big Red’s use of Unique Identifier Headers (or supercookies), which act as permanent trackers of user behavior even after the user has deleted his cookies. According to the FCC’s investigation, the biggest wireless carrier in the United States has been making use of supercookies for purposes of ad tracking for several years now, specifically since December of 2012. But Verizon Wireless had chosen not to fully disclose this move until October of 2014.


As agreed upon by the FCC and Verizon Wireless, the former is slapping a fine in the amount of $1.35 million, and the latter gets to keep using supercookies. Moreover, from now on, the Big Red will need to explicitly ask users to opt in before it can proceed to sharing this data to third parties. Verizon is also required to obtain either opt in or opt out permission whenever making use of the data for purposes of ad targeting. 


It was in the spring season of last year that the wireless carrier first started offering users a way to opt out of the supercookies. But the tracking system was activated by default, which meant that customers basically had no say if they wanted the supercookies enabled or not. Well all of that changes moving forward because is now requiring Verizon Wireless to provide opt in as well as opt out options every time.


The FCC also found that the Big Red failed to update its privacy policy in order to mention the use of supercookies and to give users a way to opt out until March of last year. According to the agency, this is in direct violation of the 2010 Open Internet Transparency Rule. Remember back in June of last year when AT&T was made to pay a fine of $100 million by the FCC? AT&T broke the same rule by failing to notify its subscribers that it was throttling its unlimited data plans. This time, it is Verizon’s turn to pay the fine.


Ever since Verizon Wireless completed its acquisition of AOL back in May of last year (to the tune of $4.4 billion), it has definitely made good on its promise to merge its comprehensive user data with that of AOL, who possesses extensive user data in its own right. But the Big Red may need to be more transparent in how it handles user data the next time, or else the FCC will come investigating once again.